Sunday, May 23, 2010

Captain Abiel Lovejoy 1731-1811

Captain Abiel Lovejoy (Allan's fifth greatgrandfather) -
His father died when he was about twenty years
old and Abiel and his brothers were left dependant entirely upon their own
resources. He had no "head start" in life.
Abiel is listed, as early as 1755, in the records of Massachusetts Colonial
Soldiers. He first appears as a sergeant on a muster roll of Captain
Goodwin's Company which had been "scouting eastward and guarding stores of
Fort Halifax." This roll was dated at Boston Dec. 27, 1755 and sworn to Dec
31, 1755 in Suffolk County, Boston. In 1756 he is listed twice as a
sentinel on "A Muster-roll of the Company in His Majesty's Service Under
the Command of Samuel Goodwin, Capt." But by 1758 Abiel is listed as a
captain. The muster roll of Colonel Nichols' regiment has the names of the
12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th men listed on this roll shown as
belonging to Captain Lovejoy's company. In August 1771 a "List of Officers
for the first Regiment of Militia in the County of Lincoln" has " Abiel
Lovejoy, captain" of the "2nd Company, in Pownalboro" It is therefore
evident he obtained his captains commission before 1758 and held it for at
least thirteen years in the Pownalborough company of the regiment assigned
to Lincoln County, then in the state of Massachusetts Bay, but now in the
state of Maine.
Just before his marriage in 1758 Abiel bought a negro slave called
"Boston". Abiel's wife, Mary, also received from her father as a wedding
present a young negress slave, who afterwards married Boston and who with
Boston formed part of many true stories and legends. Mary probably
accompanied her young husband on several cruises while he was still a ship
captain, sometimes to Annapolis Royal on the Bay of Fundy and other times
down the Coast and once or twice even to the West Indies. When in port they
lived at Nathaniel Brown's "Three Cranes Tavern" which stood on the spot
now a public park in Charlestown Square.
In 1760 Captain Abiel (then termed "mariner of Charlestown') purchased on
Sept 29 of "Ann Spaulding, spinster" thirty-five acres of land in the newly
incorporated town of Pownalborough, Me. formerly called "Frankfort
Plantation." Pownalborough was made the shire town in the new Lincoln
County which before 1760 had been the eastern part of York County. The
place was a frontier. Only one settlement Cobbisecontee (now Gardiner, Me.)
was above Pownalborough on the Kennebec and that was settled only a year
previous. In 1754 the entire country was unbroken wilderness between Fort
Richmond, opposite Pownalborough, and Canada. In that year Fort Western,
now Augusta, and Fort Halifax, now Winslow, Me, were built and occupied as
defences and protection from attacks by the Indians who, spurred on by the
French in Canada, were becoming more than usually hostile to the English
settlers. The hardships, privations and suffering of these pioneers can
never be fully understood by their descendants. Not until 1759 was the
outlook encouraging for them. The capture of Quebec that year from the
French by the Americans was the culmination of the fighting. There were no
luxuries of civilization and very few comforts. Most settlers were
extremely poor, lived in miserable huts, had no schools, no religious
organizations, no ministers, and no teachers.
It was to Lot # 11 on the east side of the Kennebec River on a peninsula
between Kennebec and Eastern Rivers and later within the limits of the town
of Dresden, Me, that Captain Abiel and Mary moved with their two young
children in 1761. He devoted himself to agriculture and mercantile
pursuits. In May, 1761, he was, by his majesty's court of General Session
for the County of Lincoln, admitted an inn holder and licensed to sell tea
and coffee. He bought more land along the Kennebec, and built a large house
which was furnished "in a sumptuous manner," richly and tastefully, with
the help of gifts from his father-in-law who was prospering with his
Charlestown tavern. Mary received from her father two more Negro slaves,
Salem and Venus, and Mary also had as housekeeper and companion, an English
woman, Elizabeth Millner.
In March 1762 he was made a selectman of Pownalborough as he continued
becoming a leading citizen of the community. He owned Swan Island in the
Kennebec, later the town of Perkins, Me., which when first discovered by
white men was the home of Sebenoa, the Indian Sachem. In 1763 he was termed
"merchant" but more frequently "gentleman." He operated a ferry across the
Kennebec and was regarded as the appropriate citizen to entertain those
gentleman travelers who desired accommodations. He was made a selectman
again in 1764 and acc. to Lincoln Co. records, was appointed guardian over
several children by the probate judge. On Nov. 12, 1764 Captain Abiel and
his father-in-law, Nathaniel Brown, purchased half of a saw mill and
adjoining land and a half interest in a dam on a small stream eight miles
above Fort Western. More and more Abiel began to buy large tracts of
neighborhood land and to take first mortgages on parcels. His interests
were many. He built a number of river ships which plied between
Pownalborough and along the river and coast to Boston. he marketed his
manufactured lumber in Boston. He owned several slaves and employed many
other laborers as farmers, mill men and saw-men. His house on Lovejoy
Landing, managed by his handsome, cultural wife, Mary, was widely known for
its genial hospitality. At the time of the Pownalborough census, June 19,
1766, he owned a two-story house with 152 squares of glass, one chimney,
three rooms with fire places, supported seven persons under sixteen years,
and ten persons above sixteen years and he owned one other house one story
high with 44 squares of glass and two fireplaces. The river near Lovejoy
Landing was termed Lovejoy's Narrows, a term still used. Early church
services in the town of Pownalborough were held at the Lovejoy mansion,
Rev. Jacob Bailey mentioning the fact in his diaries of 1772.
During 1776 Captain Abiel and Mary moved to Vassalborough, settling on the
west side of the river on the farm which, when it passed out of Lovejoy
hands some decades later, became owned by the Sherman family. They made
this move from Pownalborough up the river to Vassalborough by packing their
goods, etc. on flat boats and scows which were towed by row boats. One
boat, on which was packed all the Lovejoy "best furniture," was left for
the night tied up to the bank but a severe storm of wind and rain before
morning sank the boat and the furniture and valuable brocades were
irreparably damaged. Captain Abiel sold out all his Pownalborough property
to his father-in-law but proceeded to buy new tracts in Vassalborough.
The Vassalborough town records there show that Captain Abiel was on the
Committee of Safety and Correspondence in 1776; a highway surveyor in 1776
and again in 1777; a grand juryman; in 1779 on a committee to settle with
the women on account of supplies ordered to the soldiers families by the
General Court; in 1780 moderator of town meetings; in 1781 town treasurer;
in 1779-80 a selectman; in July 1779 a delegate to the Convention at
Concord; in 1781 a delegate to the county convention at Wiscasset; in 1782
town collector, and surveyor of lumber; in 1787 and 1790 a selectman, in
1790 member of committee to divide the town into districts. After Sidney
was set off from Vassalborough in 1792, Captain Abiel on May 7, 1792 was on
a committee to settle with Vassalborough regarding the township of Sidney;
in 1794 field driver, member of fish committee and collecting agent, also
on committee to build a pound, in 1798 member of school committee for
second district, also member of fish committee; in Sept 1777 he signed a
petition to the Honorable Council and House of Representatives of the State
of Massachusetts to abate the taxes of the inhabitants of Vassalborough. In
1777 he was one of three petitioners to the Massachusetts Government to
extend the postal service to Thomaston and he was one of a committee of
three authorized to agree with some suitable person to arrange for the
postal service. The records of the Court of Common Pleas show he was
plaintiff in a number of suits brought against men who owed him for goods
from his Pownalborough store.
In 1781 he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the first time and
solemnized a number of marriages thereafter. Henceforth he became known as
Esquire or Squire. He assisted in building another saw mill at
Vassalborough on the east side of the river and owned about 800 acres of
land on both sides.
Captain Abiel Lovejoy was accused in 1781-2 by a handful of Sidney
citizens, over whom he had probably triumphed in business and land
transactions, of being "inimical" to the government, and his election was
unsuccessfully contested. Captain Abiel had been elected year after year to
the Great and General Court of the State of Massachusetts Bay but in 1781 -
1782 these elections were contested by some of his townsmen on the grounds
that illegal votes were received, and also, that Lovejoy "was not friendly
to the cause of America." It was voted that the election of Abiel Lovejoy
was not proved to be illegal and a trial as to his character would be held
next session. Abial "settled" the affair with the principal petitioners, by
agreeing that "he would not attempt to sit in the honorable House again."
No further proceedings took place. It will be noted that he was clearly and
plainly elected and seated each of these years. The allegations were
evidently not regarded in the House as of any great importance and they
probably emanated from some business competitors or rival land owners.
Moreover, the war had been in progress for more than six years, since 1775,
and Captain Abiel, although an ex-soldier, might only have been expressing
his hopes for an early peace instead of being outright "inimical."
The true record throughout, shows him beyond question, to be a fiery
American patriot. In 1774 the Church of England people and their missionary
rector at Pownalborough were abused and annoyed by neighboring inhabitants
over the matter of continuing allegiance to the British crown. In a letter
in Oct. 1774, Rev. Jacob Bailey wrote of the "furious mobs" of American
patriots who at the instigation of Captain Abiel Lovejoy directed their
rage at several English loyalists including Parson Bailey because the
British sympathizers opposed the colonies.
In Sept 1775 Benedict Arnold's army passed up the Kennebec River on its
perilous and ill-fated expedition to Canada. Many Lovejoys are familiar
with the tradition that, when Arnold's soldiers were at Pownalborough,
Captain Abiel Lovejoy exchanged sums of "hard money" with a great number of
them for the Continental paper money which would be of no value as currency
when the soldiers reached Canada. He also changed a large sum of money for
Colonel Arnold and other officers and was induced to accommodate these
soldiers "first, because his patriotism was at flood tide at this period
and, secondly, by the fact that the paper money was variously discounted to
him." Two years later it required $30 in these Continental paper money
bills to equal one in "hard money" specie. It is, of course, an historical
fact that the provincial government was not able to redeem this currency
and the possessors were the losers. Captain Abiel Lovejoy lost some $30,000
this way and afterwards papered a room in the Lovejoy homestead with this
"worthless money."
On New Year's Day, 1776, Parson Bailey wrote that men and boys at
Pownalborough erected a liberty pole to express their defiance to the King
and affront the parson and that Captain Lovejoy tried to insist that Parson
Bailey, the British sympathizer, be forced to consecrate the pole by
prayer. Hence, ample evidence is found to refute the allegations that
Captain Abiel Lovejoy was "inimical".
The housekeeper-companion, Elizabeth Millner, died in 1784, leaving her
possessions for the most part to Captain Abiel and making him sole heir and
executor. To Abiel's children she bequeathed 13 pounds, to Nathaniel
Lovejoy, 40 pounds for Stephen Lovejoy's education; and to Sarah Lovejoy,
she gave "my Green Damask Gown and Petticoat and red quilted Petticoat, and
one pair of staves..." Captain Abiel erected a stone over her resting place
on the farm that stood for many years.
That part of Vassalborough in the west side of the Kennebec was
incorporated as Sidney in 1792 including his home farm, the saw mill and
much of his timber land.
He was always described as a man of strong will with much determination and
decision of character except that he used liberally intoxicating liquors as
was the custom of the times in which he lived. Once he consulted physicians
in Boston about his failing eyesight which rendered him blind about 1796 or
97 and he was admonished by them to abstain from anything more than a "very
moderate use" of stimulants. It is related that not long afterward Captain
Abiel poured out a glass of brandy one memorable day and holding it out at
arm's length and looking at it said "Good-bye, eyes" and drank it all.
On January 20, 1803 his sons, Nathaniel, Abiel, Thomas, Stephen, Jacob,
William and his eldest daughter, Fanny Smiley, petitioned the judge of
probate for Kennebec Co. to appoint a guardian for their father, giving as
a reason for their request that "he was distracted in his mind or non-
compose and incapable of taking care of himself or his property." The
selectmen were ordered to examine into his mental condition and, following
their report, the judge appointed Abiel' son-in-law, Samuel Dinsmore, as
his guardian. In July, 1806, the guardian petitioned the judge to be
relieved from the guardianship as he said "Mr. Lovejoy was restored to his
reason and capable of taking care of his property." The selectmen of Sidney
were of the same opinion and the guardianship was removed.
In Aug. 1806 Captain Abiel deeded shares in two of his saw mills and 100
acres to his sons, Stephen and William, who were to care for Captain Abiel
and his wife, Mary, alternatively, which arrangement continued as long as
the parents lived. In 1808 Abiel and Mary deeded Lot #40 in Sidney to their
son, Francis.
The exact date of Captain Abiel's death is not definitely known but
probably was 1811. It is thus described: - "One hot day in July he would
sit out in the little entry where the wind blew on him and it was thought
he might have taken a sudden cold the next day. All at once he was
discovered to be breathing very hard. Some one went immediately to him but
he was not conscious and was dead on July 4th.

Captain Abiel and Mary were buried on a plot on their farm in Sidney on the
slope down to the Kennebec River, common field stones first being placed to
mark the spot. An infant child, born and died 1784, was buried there and
also their negro slaves, Boston and Venus, who died before them and Salem
who died later. As similar stones marked the burial place of the negroes,
it is impossible to know which are the graves of the master and mistress
and which are the graves of their servants.

Many family stories and legends are told about Abiel Lovejoy. There is a
familiar tradition that when a young man Abiel lived with the Indians for
two or three years, hunting and trapping. After a time the Indians became
suspicious that he was "over-reaching" them in their business transactions.
They became jealous because he obtained more furs than they, and resolved
to take his life. One old squaw, who had taken a fancy to Abiel, because
she had lost a son about his own age, told Abiel they intended killing him
when they were hunting together the following day but if no opportunity
presented itself while hunting they intended to murder him that night while
he was sleeping. Abiel consequently feigned illness the next morning, did
not join the hunting party and started with all speed for the nearest white
settlement. At nightfall he climbed a high tree concealing himself in the
branches. The Indians, returning early from the hunt, started in pursuit,
arrived at the foot of the same tree where he was hiding and they danced
and yelled about all night, throwing their tomahawks at the tree and
telling what they would do to him when they got him, all ignorant of the
fact that he was over their heads. Later by another route he reached the
white settlement and was safe.
A clipping from an old Sidney newspaper relates the story which is as
follows: though the practice of keeping slaves was not generally prevalent
in the early development of the Kennebec Valley, at least one settler,
Abiel Lovejoy, owned a number of negroes and it is told that when he
received word that Massachusetts had passed an act freeing the slaves he
called two of the oldest, Salem and Venus, and offered them their liberty.
They refused to leave and Salem's answer to the Squire was "You've had all
de meat, now pick de bones."
Still another story is that Captain Abiel once went into the fields where
his slaves and employees were cutting hay and carried a jug of liquor which
was thought in those days to be quite indispensable. Criticizing the work,
he demanded "Who mowed this swath?" Anxious to escape any censure some
employees replied, "Boston" meaning the old negro slave. Captain Abiel
demanded who mowed this and that and each reply was "Boston." "Very well,"
old Abiel said, "as Boston has done all the work, he shall have all the
Another Lovejoy slave once was attacked by wolves while driving a yoke of
oxen and a load of hay. When they found the dead man, they also found the
carcasses of seven wolves killed by his pitchfork showing how desperately
the poor slave had fought for his life.
Another old story familiar to Maine Lovejoys runs like this: one dark night
as Captain Abiel was piloting his lumber boat down the river on the way to
Boston the devil appeared on the water and demanded Captain Abiel's soul in
payment for his sins. The crew was terrified but Abiel took off the round
garters which held up his long stockings and tossed them to Satan saying "
that is all you are going to get. Now be off with you."

He was born on 16 Dec 1731 at Andover, Essex, Massachusetts, United
States of America. He married Mary Brown, daughter of Nathaniel
Brown and Abigail Colesworthy, on 14 Dec 1758 at Charlestown,
Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States of America. He died on 4 Jul 1811 at
Sidney, Kennebec, Maine, United States of America, at age 79.


vern said...

Hello Nancy,
I am related to Nathaniel Brown, Mary Brown Lovejoy's father. As a Loyalist Nathaniel. Brown eventually left for Nova Scotia where some years before his brother had settled. Mary"s sister Sarah Brown is in my line. Alexander. Graham Bell as you likely know was studying the Lovejoy line and in letters written to his wife he describes his surprise at discovering that Brown had an extremely large family.
As owner of the Three Cranes Tavern in Charlestown at the time of the Revolution and a. British sympathizer, he was "unwelcome after the fact and I believe for a time removed himself to his son in law and daughters home and thence to Nova Scotia. Do you have any knowledge of this and/or Nathaniel. Brown's activities in Boston around the time of the battle of Lexington and Concord as well as the siege of Boston? I am going to be in Boston in about a month and would like to find out more? I know that during "The Big Dig", the Three Cranes Tavern was one of the historic sites unearthed. As Brown was the last owner of the historic property before it was razed in the burning of Charlestown I think it would be of great interest to see if there is more information available. If you would like to correspond you may contact me at

Anonymous said...

Abiel Lovejoy is my great great grandmother's grandfather. She was Blanche Lovejoy. She died of complications from diabetes in 1960 which seems to be passed on in the Lovejoy family. That is probably why Abiel went blind. Also, the Lovejoys had boys that had health issues. Henry had a son, Orien, who was deaf and mute. As far as we know, it ended with him.There was a doctor Bell who was studying the family. Do you know where his research might be found.
I want to thank you for preserving all of this family story. I am trying to do it from Henry Lovejoy on as my great grandparents spoke of him and my 99 year old great aunt is still living, grandaughter of Henry Lovejoy.